“Just what the garden needs!” (“Just what the garden needs!”). That is the typical phrase of some English when it unexpectedly starts to rain and they are soaking to the bone. If the garden is green and the grass shimmers, everyone is happy. These days millions of gardeners, the pride of England, are waging war against drought that a large part of the country suffers. Water supply companies, in Wales, Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight have banned for a few days the use of hoses to water the plants, wash the car or fill the pool. In Wales, Sussex and Kent they did so starting Friday, when the British government declared a state of drought in much of England, hit by a heat wave that is also hitting much of Europe and North Africa.
The measure, declared for the first time since 2018, includes the areas of Londonthe valley of Thames and parts of southern, central and eastern England. The restrictions will last until at least October. Thames Water, which supplies water to 15 million people in the south east of England, including the population of London will adopt a similar ban later this month, at a date yet to be set. “In the meantime, we ask our customers to only use (the water) that they need for essential tasks,” they pleaded in a statement. Cathryn Ross, the company’s Director of Strategic and Regulatory Affairs acknowledges that these heat waves and droughts can be more and more common. “The very low level of stored water that we are seeing is unprecedented. We are talking about less than 75% of our reservations compared to what we should expect. We have had less than 75% of the rain that we expected to have in December to fill the rivers, the swamps and the aquifers.” The providers continuously observe the levels of use and storage of available water, as well as the rain forecast, for the moment non-existent, although the situation can change quickly in early autumn.
Driest July since 1836
The drought and the low flow of the rivers will have consequences in agriculture, warn from the Center for Ecology and Hydrology of the United Kingdom. With the land too dry it will be very difficult to sow next year’s crops in October. There is also no grass for the animals, which are taking the stored feed for the winter. In the south-east of England, one of the most affected areas, almost 150 days it has barely rained. In that region, the period from last November to July has been the third driest recorded by hydrographers since 1836. The situation worsened a month ago when 40 degrees were exceeded for the first time in the country’s history. The dry grass caused several fires destroying 41 houses on the outskirts of London. Last week temperatures reached 37 degrees. The Meteorology Office launched the amber alert until Saturday, in one of the hottest and longest summers in memory.
From the media appeals and recommendations are made to the public to improve the use of water. Each Briton consumes 150 liters a day, compared to 120 for the Germans and 100 for the Danes. It is suggested not to use the bathtub or jacuzzi and to shower as quickly as possible, bearing in mind that when washing your hair and rubbing your skin, 10 liters go down the drain every minute. It is necessary to make sure that the taps do not drip and it is advisable to do the laundry in short duration programs with the machine well filled.
The leak scandal
Citizens are asked to be responsible, but the water sector, privatized since the time of Margaret Thatcher, has been accused of seeking the greatest profits without investing what is necessary in maintenance. A fifth of the entire water supply is lost due to broken pipes and poor maintenance of the network. Almost 3,000 million liters are wasted in this way every day. This month two adults and two children had to be rescued by firefighters after a pipe burst in the London neighborhood of Islington. The flood damaged fifty houses. It is “unacceptable that water supply companies impose restrictions on their customers when they fail to contain leaks,” said conservative Rishi Sunak, campaigning for Boris Johnson’s successor.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.